One Sunday a few months ago, über parachute BASE jumper ‘Fearless’ Felix Baumgartner opened the hatch of his hot air balloon capsule and hurled himself into the very edge of space. The next day, FOX Money’s Melissa Francis interviewed me about what the jump meant to Felix’s sponsor, Red Bull.
Felix’s daring jump might have been the best marketing stunt yet performed. Not only did over eight million people direct their Internet browsers to watch the jump live, but Felix broke four world records and will be in the records books for years to come.
What’s more, Red Bull judiciously applied their logo to Felix’s spacecraft, his helmet, and his parachute, and aimed their proprietary cameras where they’d create the most effective images.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. There’s plenty of information all over the ‘net about Fearless Felix and his fantastic feat. What I want to share is my experience working with FOX Business. (You can watch it HERE or click on the video below).
Three days before Felix’s scheduled jump date I was contacted by FOX’s booker, Brooke, who asked if I’d be interested in commenting on the branding implications for Red Bull. Over the next three days, as the jump was postponed due to weather, Brooke was in constant contact with me, making sure I was available, ready, and knowledgeable about the subject. She was the perfect example of friendly competence and held her digital leash tight without ever making me feel as if I was being pestered.
On the day of the interview, Brooke arranged for a car service to whisk me to FOX’s remote studio about 25 minutes from my office. When I got there I was treated like an honored guest and walked through the process that included a touch of makeup and a little lapel microphone.
Here’s where it got interesting. Even though it appears to TV viewers that the interviewer is sitting with the guest, truth was I was in Miami and Melissa Francis was interviewing me from FOX’s studio in New York City. What I was responding to was what I heard through a little speaker lodged out of sight in my ear.
Because of the seven-second delay between the interview and the broadcast, I couldn’t even watch a screen of the show. Instead, I was sitting behind a wall of lights and focusing on the barely visible luminous crosshairs taped around the camera lens.
Now that I’ve done these “blind” interviews almost weekly since the Fearless Felix story, the process has almost become second nature. But beforehand I hadn’t realized how much of any conversation is based on visual cues. Head nods and body language all go a long way to letting you know when you’re supposed to talk and when you should shut up. Staring at blinding lights? Not so much.
I never realized how talented interviewers like Melissa Francis are, holding up both ends of a blind conversation until they know they can trust their guest to respond appropriately. After all, I’m only responsible for a few minutes of air time at a time but the host holds the fate of the entire show in her hands every time she goes live.
The other thing I didn’t know was how important the bookers and producers are to making everything run smoothly. They’re part of every aspect of every show – discussing what issues to cover, booking the guests (there can be seven to 10 guests on a one-hour program), preparing the host with information and direction, making sure everyone shows up on time, booking the studios, ordering the fiber connections, directing the on-air graphics, and so on and so on. And that’s before you even consider all the effort it takes to then translate the on-air programming onto the Internet.
When done properly, the end result is a smooth show that looks like an interesting conversation between two interesting people, much like you’d have over cocktails or a cup of coffee with a friend or coworker. But the amount of time, money, effort, and expertise that go into such an activity is truly mind-boggling. It gives me a new understanding and appreciation of the 24/7 news cycle that we all participate in, and an intense interest in seeing how these activities will amp up as online information makes the world more connected and more mobile.